Quinoa Taco “Meat”

By Ann Fulton

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 
Jump to Recipe

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 


In our latest installment of Fountain Avenue Kids, Abby and Ethan are back to share a dish that reinvented taco night in their house, where some people eat meat, and some don’t. With its flavor and versatility, this recipe won over my family too! 


At 11 and 9, Abby and Ethan are no strangers to the kitchen. Their mom, Jessica, is an avid cook and has involved all her kids (Abby and Ethan have an older brother and sister) in the kitchen prep since they were toddlers, when they could do the simplest of tasks, like dumping sugar or flour into a mixing bowl.  

And they love it! They’ve discovered that cooking can be a fun activity, one that can transport them to far-away places through dishes like Jewish apple cake, Japanese Yakisoba noodles, and Spanish paella. And they’ve discovered it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Abby and Ethan’s older sister is vegan, so they’ve also been exposed to a broad range of plant-based cuisine. Last summer, they shared a recipe with me that has long been on their taco-loving family’s regular meal rotation, and it became a fast favorite in my house too.

Taco “meat” that’s made with a wholesome grain? Yes! It’s possible, and Abby and Ethan show us how: 


In the following recipe, quinoa is cooked on the stovetop and then mixed with a short list of Mexican-inspired flavors. The seasoned quinoa is then spread over a baking sheet and cooked in the oven. The resulting mixture is soft with irresistible crispy bits, and though it’s not meant to taste just like taco meat made with ground beef, it is a deliciously worthy alternative that can be used in all the same ways.

Think tacos and taco salad, burritos bowls, quesadillas, stuffed peppers, nachos, and more. The first time I cooked this with Abby and Ethan, we hovered over the freshly baked quinoa, scooping it up with tortilla chips and adding a dab of salsa to each chip as we went. From the first bite, I was a fan.

That night, I made burrito bowls with the leftovers, a dinner my family has since enjoyed many times since.

How to use Taco Quinoa “Meat”:

  • To make burrito bowls, I start with a base of the quinoa taco “meat” and typically include black beans for additional protein, and vegetables like corn, halved cherry tomatoes, and avocado. Salsa serves as a convenient dressing, although you could use Small Batch Ranch (or your favorite store-bought), Peruvian Green Sauce, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, or guacamole instead of avocado.
  • Similarly, you could add pickled onions, sliced scallions, cucumbers, black olives, bell pepper, shredded cheese if not vegan, a crumble of tortilla chips for crunch, and so on. A wedge of lime for squeezing is a nice touch too.
  • For tacos, stuff the quinoa into a hard shell or soft tortilla and then fill with your favorite toppings, like lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, jalapeños, guacamole, shredded cheese (again, if not vegan), etc.
  • For taco salad, skip the taco shell or tortilla and layer the ingredients above on a bed of chopped hearts of romaine, iceberg lettuce, or greens of choice. In this case, we like to crumble a few tortilla chips over top for crunch. Stick with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole, or finish with a drizzle of one of the dressings, above. 
  • The quinoa is also delicious as a filling for stuffed bell peppers and sweet potatoes…
  • …and quesadillas, enchiladas, or tostadas.
  • Quinoa taco “meat” can also be used in place of ground beef when making nachos…
  • …or simply scoop up the freshly baked quinoa with tortilla chips, adding a dollop of salsa or guacamole as you go.

Helpful hint: You can keep the quinoa taco “meat” and toppings in separate containers to quickly build the bowls or tacos and enjoy throughout the week.


What is nutritional yeast? Contrary to what the name suggests, nutritional yeast will not make baked goods rise. The golden, flaky powder is a deactivated form of baker’s or brewer’s yeast that tastes nutty and cheesy.

Nutritional yeast has long been popular with vegans and vegetarians because it is rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including B12, which is a nutrient often lacking in plant-based diets. It also contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes nutritional yeast a complete protein like the protein found in animal products. Additionally, nutritional yeast is an excellent source of fiber, containing 20% of the recommended daily intake in a two-tablespoon serving.

Sometimes referred to as “nooch,” the flaky powder is often used to add cheesy, savory flavor to a variety of vegan dishes. Vegans and meat eaters alike have long enjoyed nutritional yeast sprinkled over popcorn.

What can be used as a substitute? If you don’t have nutritional yeast and are not concerned about keeping it a vegan recipe, you may replace this ingredient with grated Parmesan cheese. Or simply omit it. You’ll lose the hint of cheesy taste, but the quinoa will still have loads of flavor. 

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 

Clearly something good is in the pot!

Abby spreading the quinoa into an even layer on the baking sheet before it goes in the oven.

After mixing the cooked quinoa with the salsa and other seasonings, it is spread into an even layer over a large, rimmed baking sheet. Then in the oven it goes. 

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 

We have to take pictures so everyone can see what the end result looks like!

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 

Abby prefers to make taco or burrito bowls. My family is a big fan of these customizable bowls as well.

Plant-based tacos and bowls are within easy reach thanks to this clever recipe. Taco Tuesday just got a whole lot more exciting! 

Ethan votes for tacos in a hard shell, although soft tortillas are fair game too. Either way, I like to serve it with a side of Cumin Lime Slaw. The flavors complement Tex-Mex fare beautifully – and the slaw is just as good IN the tacos or bowls as it is on the side!

To see Abby and Ethan’s first Fountain Avenue Kids video, check out Yakisoba Noodles, another family friendly meal that’s easy to prepare. 

If you make this recipe, please comment and give it a 5-star review if you deem worthy. We always appreciate the feedback! 💚

Quinoa Taco "Meat"
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Yield: 6 (½-cup servings)
Naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, this versatile dish is bursting with south-of-the-border flavor and can be used just like taco meat. Or enjoy it as a side dish that is destined to be enjoyed by meat eaters and plant-based eaters alike!
The quinoa:
  • 1 cup (180g) uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable broth*
  • ¾ cup (180ml) water
The seasonings:
  • ½ cup (128g) salsa (slightly chunky is best)
  • 1 tablespoon (11g) nutritional yeast*
  • 2 teaspoons each ground cumin and chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon each garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) olive or avocado oil
  1. Using a fine-mesh strainer or sieve, rinse the quinoa well and then drain well. Rinsing will get rid of a natural coating on the quinoa (called saponin), which has a bitter flavor.
  2. Heat a medium-size pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the rinsed and drained quinoa and toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 12-16 minutes, or until the liquid is completely absorbed and the quinoa is tender. (Precise time will depend on the low heat level on your stove, as stoves do vary.) Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, and then let rest for 10 minutes with the lid slightly ajar.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375℉, and then combine the nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  5. After the quinoa has rested for 10 minutes, add the salsa and oil, and sprinkle the spice mixture over top. Toss to thoroughly combine. Spread the quinoa evenly over a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. The quinoa should be fragrant and golden brown. It will still be soft but will have some delicious crispy pieces around the edges.

*If you don’t have nutritional yeast, you may omit it. Or, if not needing a vegan recipe, you could use finely grated Parmesan cheese instead.

*No vegetable broth? Use chicken broth if a vegan or vegetarian recipe is not needed. The broth infuses more flavor into the quinoa, but if you don’t have it, you could also use all water plus a pinch or two of salt.

How to use the quinoa taco “meat”: Serve it in crispy or soft taco shells, in burrito bowls, and quesadillas. Use as a filling for stuffed peppers. Or make a taco salad, nachos, enchiladas, or tostadas. We’ve also enjoyed scooping it onto tortilla chips and then adding a dollop of salsa or guacamole. (See main post for specific suggestions.)

Storage: Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave, in a 350℉ oven, or in a skillet on the stovetop.

More On YouTube More on Instagram
Tried this recipe?Post a picture on instagram and we will repost it! Mention @fountainavenuekitchen or tag #fountainavenuekitchen!
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker.

Abby behind the camera with brother Ethan next!

Leave a Reply

Make it? Rate the recipe:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *